There is plenty of information out there about the environmental, lifestyle, age-related and genetic factors that can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

However, it seems that there may be other factors women may not have considered; one such factor is the use of chemical hair dyes.

The American Cancer Society says that for women in the US, the average lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 13%.

Obviously there are some risk factors women may have little to no control over, but when it comes to lifestyle, education is paramount. The choices made on a day-to-day basis could significantly lower breast cancer risk.

Although experts believe that cancer is usually caused by a combination of several risk factors, limiting the chemicals you expose your body to on a regular basis could make a big difference.

Hair dyes can contain up to 5000 chemicals

A recent study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) has concluded that using chemical hair dyes, which can contain up to 5,000 different chemicals, may significantly increase the chances of developing breast cancer.

Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of Breast Service at Mount Sinai West, said:

“I’m not surprised at a potential connection between hair dye and breast cancer. There are chemicals in dyes that act as estrogen disrupters and other chemicals that are carcinogenic.”

According to the study, women who use chemical hair dyes will have a different level of risk depending on their ethnicity.

For example, black women are much more likely to develop cancer from hair dye use than white women.

Studies have shown that black women are more susceptible to coming down with triple negative breast cancer―a deadlier sub-type of breast cancer.

Is it time to stop using chemical hair dyes?

Actually, there may be no need to bin your hair dyes just yet.

Since the study does not conclusively prove a link between chemical hair dyes and breast cancer, it may not be necessary to completely stop using them.

The study did not account for certain other risk-increasing variables potentially affecting study participants, meaning that it should serve as a caution only.

For instance, since all participants had a sister who had developed breast cancer, genetic factors may have played a part.

Dr. Bernik felt that although there is some indication that chemical hair dyes may increase breast cancer risk, it has not yet been proven that these products were solely responsible for study participants developing cancer.

However, women in higher risk groups may benefit from taking precautionary measures such as:

• Opting for semi-permanent or temporary dyes (which do not impact risk)
• Using natural, plant-based dyes without added chemicals
• Having hair dyed professionally in a salon
• Dying hair less frequently
• Using gloves and follow the product safety guidelines

For those who are concerned about falling into the high breast cancer risk category, Dr. Bernik also recommends sticking to a healthy lifestyle, including low fat diet and taking plenty of exercise on a regular basis.

It seems that more studies need to be done before the link between chemical hair dyes and breast cancer is proven, but since it is a possibility, safety precautions may be beneficial.